Max shares the experiences they have gone through having a Deaf sibling and how it has made Max ‘stronger and willing to speak out against injustice’
‘Kris, I know you may be reading this and still feeling guilty for having a rough time growing up, I wish you would forgive yourself, it was never your fault and I love you unconditionally’ – Max
Importance of support for hearing families with a Deaf child
Hearing parents will often experience a range of emotions when they find out their child is Deaf BUT it isn’t all bad, especially when you have support out there. Max highlights that ‘NDCS was incredibly helpful because they let Max and Max’s sister go on trips with their Deaf sibling to trips so that they were also experiencing the Deaf community’
Being involved in the Deaf community as a Deaf person is a part of ‘identity’ but when the siblings and parents are also given the opportunity to be involved, it opens so many doors for that family to get the support they need, like Max’s family.
9 out of 10 Deaf children are born to hearing parents, only 1 out of that 9 hearing parents will learn sign language. Max’s family learnt BSL at a later stage in their Deaf child’s life as Max uses a form of speech mixed with sign language – something we can refer to as SIGN SUPPORTED ENGLISH
Max did not learn BSL as a kid, Max felt that their deaf sibling was ‘ashamed to be deaf, it highlighted that he was different’
‘My parents took BSL lessons when my brother was young, I learnt later, the sessions with the social worker let us all be more deaf aware’
Deaf awareness is so important for the family unit, parents can choose their preference of communication but they must be deaf aware to ensure that child gets the best access not only in the household but in their education. ‘
Have you had any negative reactions/experiences when telling people, you have a deaf sibling?
‘They’ll treat him like he’s stupid or defective in some way, or even worse like an object’
Stereotypes are a common factor into the treatment of Deaf people within our society, it creates ignorance within hearing people because they are seeing false representations in society.
CUE THE SYMPATHETIC FACE
‘Oh I’m so sorry – I can’t imagine what that must be like – honestly, I don’t know how you deal with it’
4 things you have learnt from having a deaf sibling?
Deaf people are ‘done dirty’ by society and the government. ‘People don’t realise how deep discrimination against deaf people goes’
There is always ‘something new I need to learn’
My sibling has indescribable strength
It has made ‘me willing to speak out against injustice’
4 things you want other people to know about being a sibling of a deaf person?
Our siblings aren’t a problem : ‘stop pitying us, feeling sorry for us, there’s nothing to feel sorry for, and I’m proud to say I have a deaf sibling
Talk to us: ‘If you want to ask awkward questions about deaf people but don’t want to ask a deaf person – ask me, I’m not going to bite’
Consider us too: ‘My struggles are nothing to do with having a deaf sibling’
The real me: ‘I am not defined as a ‘hearing sibling’ to a deaf person, I am Max’
Now, Max is passionate about disabled people’s rights. Max now works as
The infamous Ben Mitchell, in Eastenders contracted meningitis and was left partially deaf as a result. I mean fair play for including a ‘deaf’ character in a major TV soap..
Especially a ‘deaf’ character that doesn’t lip read, struggle to pick up the conversations and most of all, has a disappearing hearing aid.
The disappearing hearing aid
In the beginning, the hearing aid was visible and it was refreshing to see a character represent deaf people, although the social representation is poor – Eastenders have not included factors such as missing out on group conversations, especially with the Mitchell family being HUGE or not being able to use the phone to call.. which Ben has done MANY TIMES.
But then after a scene in 2016 which showed Ben replying to a ringleader of thugs – ‘So as long as I suddenly go deaf, blind and stupid so far as you lot are concerned; , it looked like I wasn’t the only confused person.
I mean, Eastenders, doesn’t that kind of play into the stereotypes of Deaf people, therefore making it harder for Deaf people in the UK to be seen – especially those who can’t hear without hearing aids
Imagine someone quotes Ben Mitchell as a reason for their stereotypical views – ‘ That Ben Mitchell can hear without his hearing aid, so you can too right?’
Now the new character doesn’t even HAVE a hearing aid.. the irony.
I’m sure in the beginning, she was introduced as a ‘deaf’ character.. but yet again, she’s not even struggling to lip read anyone in a fast paced environment like a hospital??? I can’t be the only one who’s picked this up
ALSO – why is it that the only ‘deaf’ character has to be portrayed in a ‘stupid’ way – Jade is seen to be the one who always messes up and gets things wrong.
Casualty producers need to explore the actual communication and social barriers of someone who is ‘DEAF’ and working in a busy hospital. Instead of giving us Jade, who is not an accurate representation and just feeds into the stigma around deaf people in the UK.
WHEN are we actually going to see ACTUAL deaf people play deaf characters – like Oscar in Hollyoaks who truly represents ‘deaf’ children; he even wears a cochlear and is consistently represented as a ‘deaf’ character through . Hollyoaks incorporates both BSL and Speech which shows the diversity of the deaf community. Hats off to Hollyoaks, but the rest of the UK TV soaps need to up their game.
19 year old, Black and Deaf, Jephtah Asamoah talks about having a ‘double identity’, successful moments and hopes for the future.
What does having ‘double identity’ mean for you?
‘Having a ‘double identity’ means ‘double struggle’ – it is like having 2 bricks on your shoulder’
‘At the same time, it is wonderful and unique to have a sense of, how do you put it, ah – ‘a bit of both’
‘It also means that I face discrimination, racism, oppression in both aspects, I will experience racism because I am black – I will experience discrimination and exclusion because I am Deaf. It’s hard’
Would you describe being ‘Black and Deaf’ as being in two worlds?
‘Yes, it’s like I love my Black community and the Deaf community too, but I’ve never experienced both worlds come together, which is hard because it’s like I’m stuck in between, trying to fit into both worlds’
‘However, I have black deaf friends who I value because we both share the same ‘double identity’ – like they fully understand the ‘double struggle’
‘I also have black hearing friends who I’ve grown up with through high school, church, football, Having friends from both worlds is a unique feeling, I can’t describe. It’s humbling to know I can be a part of both worlds’
Black/Asian peoples experience of disabilities are essentially different from other people with disabilities because of language difficulties and institutional racism’ – Leeds University (Disability Studies)
Do you agree with this statement?
‘Yes, because I am Ghanaian – we have our own language called ‘Twi’
‘With my family, I can understand their Twi because that’s my family, I’ve gotten used to their tone of voice, lip patterns and the way they talk but when I meet someone who speaks Twi for the first time, the language/communication barrier is REAL’
‘Twi is also my third language after English and BSL – so I’m always jumping from one language to another and I have to remind myself that the structures, grammar and vocals are so so different’
‘But there’s nothing I wouldn’t change, I love being bilingual – I get to embrace the language, culture and express myself in different forms’
Do you feel like you have had to work twice as hard to get where you are?
‘Yes, I have faced racism, discrimination, oppression, exclusion and more’
‘But, despite this, I have overcome this and achieved so much in my life, and I am only 19. I want young boys who are Black, Hearing and Deaf to see me as an example that you can make it in this life, despite society trying to push us down’
Fact: There are an estimated of 138 – 300 different types of sign language being used to communicate in the world.
BSL is not English, it is not the same structure as English Language. For example, someone who uses speech would say “What’s your name? ” but a BSL user would sign “Name, Your, What?”
BSL isn’t just about tapping fingers and jumbling your hands together. It is a language with it’s own structure, vocabulary and grammar. It is how deaf people communicate with their friends and family.
However, it is not the same all over Britain. For example, even though a BSL user from London and a BSL user from Liverpool are using ‘BSL’ the same sign language, their signs may be different, they may have different signs for words and have an ‘accent’ within their sign language.
Danny shows a perfect example of how sign language can be #confusing. #PG RATED
Above is a skit that shows an conversation between a British (blue jumper) and Canadian (white shirt) sign language user.
Who uses sign language?
It’s not just Deaf people who use sign language. These people also use sign language too
Interpreters = interprets sign language from a deaf person to a hearing person to provide equal access to information/interactions.
Parents/Guardian’s of deaf children = parents/guardians of deaf children who have learnt sign language to communicate with their child
Professionals = professionals who have learnt sign language to be able to communicate with their employees and customers. They may also use this outside of their work.
How can I learn sign language?
Learning sign language isn’t ‘easy’. It’s just like learning any other language, it requires concentration, focus and commitment.
YouTube videos = made by organisations who have sign language qualifications or people who use sign language as their first language
‘Teacher’s shouted at me when I didn’t hear them or understand what they said’
Who am I?
Hi, my name is Bradley. I like exploring and finding things on the beaches or woods near me. I love learning new facts about anything, literally anything. Did you know that Nutella was made during World War 2?
I have a deaf mum, sister and grandad. My dad is ‘hearing’ that means he doesn’t need hearing aids to hear.
Oh, I forgot to mention, I’m deaf… it’s okay, it’s not contagious. I wear 2 hearing aids which help me to hear. At the moment, my hearing aids are clear, I want red hearing aids!
What was primary school like for me?
So, I went to two different primary schools. The first one, I didn’t like that school because they didn’t understand me, this school was difficult for me, because they didn’t know how to help me with my work, I found it frustrating and got angry sometimes, I left this school in Year 3.
Then in Year 4, I went to my new primary school, I was nervous and worried about the new children and teachers. I didn’t know who I was, or what it meant to be ‘deaf’. Then I realised I couldn’t hear the teachers sometimes, I didn’t understand what they were talking about. School work was hard for me.
My mum tried to help me, but I was frustrated. I hated being deaf and wished I was like the other children. My Teacher of the Deaf was amazing, she let me do fun things like learning about history (my favourite topic), finding out new facts, teaching me new words, telling me her stories (I enjoyed this).
My mum, sister and Teacher of the Deaf made me feel proud to be Deaf. Now I enjoy going to trips with my local deaf group, I can talk about my deafness and why I wear hearing aids to new people that I meet. I now have a ‘Deaf identity’ (that’s what my sister tells me)
Fun Fact: I learnt British Sign Language and I got a Level 1 Qualification at 11 years old.
Later in Year 6, before I was moving into secondary school. Mum found out I was dyslexic, now it made sense why I found it harder than other children to understand things in school and outside of school. It was too late for my primary school to help me but it wasn’t too late for my new secondary school to help me.
What is secondary school like for me now?
Secondary school is awesome, I never thought I’d like school. I mean at the beginning, it was a bit rocky, but that’s just because they were getting to know me. Now that they know what I need, it is rare that I will have bad days, but when I do, my teachers are always there for me. They never shout at me when I take my time to answer questions, or when I don’t hear what they say, they are patient with me.
I have a full time teaching assistant with me to help me with my work in class and out of class. She is kind, patient and calms me down when my anxiety is high. Dyslexia for me means that my brain jumbles up the information that is given to me which means that it takes longer for me to work things out.
I have made new friends and enjoy spending time with them, I don’t worry about if I can hear them or not, because they know how to communicate with me. They don’t make me feel stupid if I don’t ‘get’ what they say.
Now to those teachers who shouted at me for not understanding you. It wasn’t my fault. It was yours, because you didn’t take the time to understand me.
Is it merely a coincidence that nearly 80% of deaf children attend mainstream schools with no specialist provision, how can D/deaf children across the UK be expected to perform like their hearing peers, if they are not given the access nor opportunity? By not having access to specialist provision, it causes D/deaf pupils to fail behind at school and fail to achieve their potential, maybe this is why “59% of D/deaf children fail to get 5 good GCSE’s”, but yeah, that’s totally not obvious.
‘We exist to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities’ – Public Health England
I have my doubts about this statement, want to know why? Our government fails to provide for D/deaf people, their laws/policies are having a negative effect on D/deaf people’s lives within education, employment, health services, participation in politics alongside ability to involve themselves in sport, recreation and cultural activities.
The Equality Act 2010 is a LAW, a LAW implemented by OUR government that “prohibits” unfair treatment of employees on the basis of disability, the aim of this LAW is to achieve equal opportunities in the workplace, meaning that D/deaf employees cannot be discriminated against in work for their disability, BUT a survey carried out by Action on Hearing Loss showed results that 35% of business employers didn’t feel confident about employing someone who was D/deaf.
Where does the funding go?
Without sounding like I’m bashing the government (which I am), how is funding allocated within institutions for D/deaf people? If D/deaf people within institutions are still being left with unequal treatment and lack of provision that this “funding” is paying for?
My journey to who I am now as a deaf person hasn’t been a smooth ride, it has been full of being isolation, discriminated against, stigmatised, stereotyped and lack of specialist support. Before, I was someone who hid her hearing aids, didn’t have the confidence to ask people to repeat what they say, never talked about my deafness. Now, I wear bright pink hearing aids (I want you to see I am deaf), I deliver presentations to different audiences to show I am deaf and proud
Now, I want to advocate for change in society, for a D/deaf person to be able to walk into school, work and not feel anxious about their day because they might not be able to lip-read this person, or because their colleagues aren’t deaf aware or that there isn’t going to be any subtitles on the science film. I’m raising the standards for D/deaf people. To anyone who thinks their deafness defies them from being a somebody, I tell you to hear my story and see that you can do it.
‘Deaf people can do anything that hearing people can do except hear’ – Dr
P.s just in case you were
wondering why I used ‘D/deaf’ when I referred to D/deaf people, click here.
Emily explains it a lot better than my waffling can. There is also some awesome
links below where you can check out on more perspectives of other D/deaf people!!